Try these four undervalued but delicious white wines

 

White wine can sometimes feel like the underdog in the wine world. There is always a lot of love out there for red wines, and in the world of fine wine, it’s reds that tend to attract more prestige and higher prices.

 

But white wine is just as complex to produce, and results in just as spectacular end products. Whatever the reason behind the slightly lesser reputation that white wine holds, it’s excellent news for wine lovers. This is because it means there are plenty of fabulous and very collectible white wines around at reasonable prices.

 

And while Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay will always be popular, we decided to showcase some less well-known white wine varieties. All delicious, and all deserving of high praise, these undervalued yet opulent white wines are definitely worth adding to your cellar. In this blog we’ll be looking at Viognier from Oregon, US, Semillon from the Hunter Valley, Australia, Pinot Blanc from Alsace, France and Dry Furmint from Hungary.

 

White wines to try from Oregon

 

Oregon is now home to the Viognier white grape. Originally from the Rhone Valley in France, the grape has taken hold in the Pacific Northwest over the last few years. Despite being a tricky grape to grow and make into delicious wine, it is contributing to some great white wines from this region.

 

Maryhill Winery produced almost 8,300 cases for its 2016 vintage in a bid to become the biggest producer. Owner Greg Lethold said at the time: “It’s our second-largest production wine, and demand has grown 38% over the last year.” Much of the grapes they use comes from the vineyards surrounding their winery, and the winemakers have been winning awards for their Viognier for around ten years.

 

Using French oak production techniques, their Maryhill Winery 2016 Viognier maintains its ripe fruity characteristics, with a delicate sweetness. Expect flavour notes of honeysuckle, orange and apricot with a pleasing balance between sweetness and acidity. The 2016 vintage was awarded the gold medal in the Washington State Wine Competition and is definitely worth trying. It goes particularly well with a creamy, rich pasta dish.

 

While Oregon was previously mostly well known for its Pinot Noir, it is one of the most interesting hotspots for chilled white wines. Other great varieties include Arneis and Melon de Bourgogne.

White wines to try from the Tokaji region in Hungary

The Tokaj wine region in Hungary is known for its sweet white wines. It was the very first region to be officially classified as a wine region back in 1730. In 1757 it was formally recognised and officiated by noble decree. Tokaji wines are noted for their sweetness, due to the grapes being affected by ‘noble rot’.

 

There are six grapes approved for wine making in Tokaj: Furmint, Harslevelu, Yellow Muscat, Zeta (once called Oremus), Koverszolo and Kabar. Furmint accounts for almost two-thrids of wine produced in the area and is the most important grape, followed by Harslevelu.

 

Tokaji wine is traditionally made from grapes grown on a very small plateau around 1,500 feet above sea level close to the Carpathian Mountains. Its soil has high levels or lime and iron, and the region benefits from sheltered winters and hot summers. Furmint grapes have thick skins which become thinner as they age, allowing the sun to evaporate a lot of the liquid. This results in high sugar levels, and long ripening times. The grapes are left on the vine long enough to develop ‘noble rot’, which is a certain type of mould.

 

Today, the Tokaji region produces lots of delicious sweet wines, but is also producing more dry versions too. Wines such as Kikelet Dry Tokaji offer a really delicious and decadent feeling alternative to the sweet versions. It’s more delicate than the sweet Toakji wines, and is packed with citrus flavours, including fresh green apple, lemon and lime.

 

Why Hunter Valley Sémillon is a white wine worth trying

The very first vineyards ever planted in Australia were in the Hunter Valley. And Semillon was first made in 1831 with grapes brought over from its native France. It’s a real underdog of a grape but comes into its own in Hunter Valley dry and sweet white wines.

 

In its early days it was often mislabelled as Hunter River Hick or Chablis, which didn’t help to establish its name as a great grape in its own right. But it’s always been popular with winemakers in Australia, as it’s relatively easy to grow in this humid climate. Hunter Semillon’s delicious flavours and aging capacity is down to great winemaking. The grapes are picked at low levels of alcohol (about 10%), and delicately handled, before being fermented at low temperatures.

 

When it’s initially bottled, Hunter Semillon is very light and delicate, with notes of grass, citrus and straw. But in just five years it transforms into a toasty, rich, honeyed, nutty wine. It’s also one of the lowest alcohol white wines on the market with such a complex and fabulous flavour profile.

 

Try white wines from the Alsace region of France

Alsace white wines are hugely influenced by the German traditions of winemaking. There are 12 different white wine grapes grown in the region, and 13 whites hailing from there. And while Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewürztraminer are well known, there are other more obscure white wines worth trying.

 

Muscat is a deliciously refreshing Alsatian white wine, with a fruity, dry finish. It’s an accessible white that most people will love, but it also feels rich and a bit special. It often has a floral aroma, with fruity flavours and a hint of sweetness. Alsace is home to a number of varieties of Muscat grape, and different blends produce different styles of white.

Choosing wines worth cellaring can be tricky – here are five perfect red wines ideal for storing

 

Not every wine lover focuses on cellaring bottles of wine. Many people like to buy wine and enjoy it immediately. But for the serious fine wine collector, or for someone new to the idea, it’s worth knowing that aged bottles can be more delicious after a few years.

And while aged bottles can taste better after a number of years, there’s also much to be said for wine evoking memory and nostalgia. For example, celebrating a wedding anniversary by opening a bottle stored since the big day can make it extra special. Or, by opening bottles stashed after a trip to a winery, you can take yourself back to that holiday.

 

Are all wines worth cellaring?

So, how do you choose which wines are worth cellaring? Around 95% of wines aren’t designed to age, and actually taste better when opened quickly. And this means that finding wines worth ageing is more of a challenge.

Given that most wines last around two years, what should you look for in a wine you intend to store for between ten and 20 years? Primarily, you’re looking for wines with structure. This refers to the taste attributes in the wine that act as preservatives. For example, red wines for cellaring must be packed with great fruit, bold tannins, good levels of acidity and oak and boast a solid structure. You’re looking for the more expensive red wines in this case, as mass-produced wines generally don’t cellar well. Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon wines work well for cellaring, particularly if you’re new to it.

To cellar wines, you don’t need an actual wine cellar, of course. Most of us don’t have the kind of cool, dark basements that are necessary for storing wine for years. If you have a room with a constant, cool temperature then that will do, or you can invest in a wine fridge. Many fine wine collectors choose to store wines in temperature controlled bonded warehouses, which ensures it’s kept properly and fully catalogued.

At Ideal Wine Company, we’ve come up with five excellent reds worth cellaring below.

  1. Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

This is one of the most popular red wines from the Californian Napa Valley region. The 2013 vintage is very intense, and has layers of sweetness, fruitiness, and a lot of tannins. It’s possible to find vintages going back to the 1980s, but if you’re considering buying one of these, check that they were stored properly.

  1. Coudoulet de Beaucastel Rouge 2013

Winemaker Marc Perrin’s flagship wine is Cheateau de Beaucastel’s Chateuneuf du Pape, which goes for more than £100 a bottle. But this dark and complex Cotes du Rhone is made with grapes from vineyards just opposite those used to make the more expensive wine. This is perfect for buying a few bottles now, enjoying some and storing the rest away. Aim to cellar them for between five and ten years, and you’ll be enjoying this delicious red wine for years to come.

  1. Domaine Raspail-ay Gigondas 2014

A classic Gigondas, this is made by a family producer who has been in the business for five generations. It’s packed with dark cherry flavours and notes of white pepper. If you enjoy it now you will find a rich and lush red, but if you store it for around a decade or more, you can expect an even richer, deeper, spicier wine later on.

  1. Tasca D’Ameritae Rosso del Conte 2012

This Sicilian red was first created back in the 1960s by wine enthusiast Count Giuseppe Tasca. It was one of the first reds to show that Sicily can produce top-class wines, and not just those that are nice to drink on holiday. When it’s young and new it has plenty of tannins but keep it for a couple of decades and you can expect a deep, luscious, warmly spicy black cherry wine.

  1. Chateau Meyre Haut-Medoc 2011

This Bordeaux style blended red wine from Chateau Meyre is a deep, richred with lots of black fruits. It has a solid structure thanks to the tannins and blackberries working in partnership leaving a full, rich texture on the palate. Store for up to ten years and enjoy this excellent red with good potential.

 

Confused about fine wine terminology? Read on…

You don’t need to be a sommelier or fine wine collector to be interested in all things vine related. But have you ever felt confused by some of the fine wine terminology used by wine sellers, makers and enthusiasts? Here’s a rundown on some of the fine wine terminology we think needs debunking.

 

Debunking fine wine terminology

Many of these phrases will be familiar to a wine industry professional, or to a fine wine collector. And lots of them will be well-known to a wine enthusiast or beginner, but their actual meanings aren’t always clear. Here’s what some common (and not so common) wine terms mean.

 

  • Complexity – the complexity of a wine is about all of the different aromas and flavours it has. It also covers how these aromas and flavours interact with each other. And the better they interact, the higher the quality of the wine. For example, if when tasting a wine, you can pick up a whole raft of flavours and they all blend well on the palate, then that wine has a complexity that ups its quality and value.

 

  • Cork tainted – a common misconception is that ‘corked’ means that a wine has bits of cork physically floating around in it. This isn’t the case. Rather, ‘corked’ is used to describe a fault in the wine causing it to smell a certain way. Instead of whatever floral or fruity flavours the wine should have, if it is corked, it tends to smell like damp paper or mildew. The most significant chemical that causes this ‘off’ smell is TCA, which is transferred to the wine from the cork. TCA stands for ‘2,4,6-trichloroanisole’, an incredibly powerful chemical that can cause ‘corked’ or ‘cork-tainted’ aromas and flavours in wine even in tiny amounts.

 

  • Full-bodied – you’ll often read this term in articles about wine, or hear it thrown around by a wine expert, but there is rarely an explanation as to what it really means. This is partly because it’s quite difficult to fully define. The ‘body’ of a wine refers to how to how it feels on the palate and in the mouth. An easy way to think of it is to consider water as ‘light bodied’ and heavy cream ‘full bodied’, and to compare the way a wine feels in your mouth to these. A typically light bodied wine has a high acidity, such as Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc, while deep reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon are generally described as ‘full-bodied’ wines.

 

  • First growth – refers to Bordeaux, specifically the Bordeaux Classification back in 1855. Wine brokers ranked Chateaux based on price and reputation, in categories known as growths or ‘crus’. For example, in the Medoc sub-region, ‘first growth’ means one of the top five chateaux. These wines are also referred to as ‘Premier Cru’, which refers to the land rather than the wine itself.

 

  • Grand vin – you’ll see this French wine term on bottle labels. It indicates that the producer thinks that it’s the best of their wines. However, because it’s a subjective term, it’s unregulated. In other words, it’s no guarantee that the particular wine producer’s ‘grand vin’ is excellent, or even OK. But it does tend to bump the price up anyway.

 

  • Natural wine – another commonly used term with no regulated definition, it’s usually used to describe wines that are produced using few or no man-made chemicals. Natural wine vineyards will normally be sustainable, biodynamic and organic. They tend to use natural fertilisers and treatments and harvest their grapes by hand. Wines are fermented using wild yeast, with hardly any sulphur dioxide or additives. Natural wines are usually lightly filtered before they reach the bottle.

 

  • Tannin – this is the chemical you find in tea. It’s what gives black tea the bitter flavour. Tannins in wine come from the skin of the grapes used. How much tannin ends up in your wine depends on the amount of contact the wine skins had in the process of making it. Tannins give wine that dry, bitter flavour.

 

  • Terroir – this is a complicated term used in wine making. It encompasses many factors and refers to the natural environment in which the grapes have been grown. It covers everything that makes the site unique, from its soil and topography to the climate. All of these factors play important roles in determining the ultimate flavour and quality of the final product.

 

For more on fine wines, head to Ideal Wine Company’s blog where you’ll find industry, product and regional information.

 

Five delicious wine and comfort food pairings

Whether you want to greet your guests at a dinner or pair your takeout meal, picking the perfect wine to complement your food can be a challenge.

However, choosing the right wine is more intuitive than daunting. The key is to achieve the right balance between the wine’s acidity and the flavour of the food.

Here at Ideal Wine Company, we make your food-wine pairing decision easy.

 

1.    Chilli wine pairings

Spicy and meatier meals need a strong wine profile to stand up to their bold flavour. The rich dark flavours of cherries and plums, with hints of spice and notes of chocolate; make red wine the ideal match for a bold chilli taste.

However, anything high in alcohol or tannins can have an overpowering effect on pepper in chilli. Malbec is always the safest wine option for meaty and spicy foods. Pinot Noir also works well with strong flavours. The subtle notes of tannins cut through the meatiness of the food, while the fruity flavour of these wines pair well with the strong chilli notes.

 

2.    Fried chicken pairings

No dinner menu is complete without the addition of classic fried chicken. A warming staple, this crispy and juicy meal requires an equally celebrated wine.

With this celebrated meal goes a classic wine option. Rich in flavour and highly acidic, champagne compliments fried chicken tastefully. The acidity of champagne cuts through the fried richness of the chicken while its sharp effervescence clears your palate.

 

3.    Beef stew wine pairings

Beef stew is a classic comfort food. It’s also a good excuse for bringing out your cellared full-bodied wines.

Prepared heartily with mushrooms, bacon, beef and potatoes – beef stews need an equally powerful and earthy wine counterpart. The dark fruit and rich tannin notes of full-bodied red wines stand up to the strong taste of the beef stew. Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon are terrific with beef’s earthy taste. Punchy and peppery French Bordeaux and Syrah also balance nicely with strong flavours.

 

4.    Macaroni cheese wine pairings

Macaroni cheese is a simple dish to prepare. But its wine pairing depends on how cheesy your macaroni cheese is.

Its classic recipe that is perfectly paired with a light unoaked chardonnay. Its slight acidity and creaminess pairs well with the cheesiness of the dish. However, if you are planning to enhance your macaroni cheese with lobster, then a white Burgundy will match well with your extravagant meal. If you prefer reds over whites, try Cru Beaujolais to complement your meal. Its Gamay grapes brewing gives it a light to medium body and a hint of acidity.

 

5.    Spaghetti Bolognese pairings

Making a perfect Bolognese sauce is difficult; picking the right wine to complement spaghetti Bolognese is tougher than the former.

This classic Italian dish needs an equally strong wine to match its rich texture. Whether you like red or prefer white, choose a wine with fruity notes and soft tannins with a slight acidity. It can be a daunting task to pair tomatoes well, but the sweetness of this sauce makes it easier. Nero d’Avola cuts through the meatiness while matching well with the tomatoes. The subtle tannins, supple notes of blueberry and acidity of Barbera d’Asti complements well with spaghetti Bolognese.

Learn more about the perfect Italian wines for your dinner parties here.

The bottom line is that, when you’re choosing wines to accompany comfort foods, you should consider the flavours in your dish and how the wine will complement them. Keep the flavour and texture intensities in mind, so that your meal and wine don’t clash. Food and wine pairings are mainly about food. It is the wine that must match well with the food and not the other way around.

Wine innovators are continuing to change the industry

For many wine collectors and aficionados, the wine industry is steeped in tradition. From traditional wine producing processes to ancient vineyards producing grapes that have been used for centuries, it’s an industry with historical connotations. However, in 2019, the wine industry is also home to innovations and new ways of producing wine.

Innovation tends to occur when there is a new problem to solve. But it also happens when people with a new perspective join an established industry. Innovative solutions often build on top of existing tech and adapt them into a new industry. And however simple the end result appears to be to the outsider, the background levels of vision, determination and innovation are fascinating. Every year, the Wine Industry Network (WIN) awards businesses and entrepreneurs for excellence in the wine industry.

 

Wine innovators recognised in annual awards

Here are three winners from the eighth annual WINnovation Awards. They show the breadth and scope of innovation in this most traditional of industries.

Fighting climate change is ConeTech. There are new challenges facing the wine industry in regions that are suffering from adverse consequences of climate change. For example, in California the now annual wildfires destroy and taint grapes. Smoke exposure from the fires can cost winemakers entire crops, leading to huge financial loss. ConeTech developed a process that removes smoke taint without destroying the wine itself.

The process encompasses two steps. The first is vacuum distillation, which separates the essence and smoke compounds in the wine. The second step is testing the wine for more than 30 markers to work out how much the wine is tainted. This allows for properly targeted removal of the taint, restoring the value to the wine. Since ConeTech launched this proprietary process, they have restored almost one million gallons of wine that was smoke tainted.

 

New product restores nutrients to the soil

Another company working on climate change is Enartis USA, which linked up with BluAgri. The latter company is based in Europe, and developed a product called BluVite, which is a biofertilizer that restores the soil’s microbiological fertility. This was developed in response to extreme heat events caused by climate change. The fertiliser helps soil retain nutrients, which leads to healthier vines and better-quality grapes.

Enartis USA trialled the product in 2018 across a number of California wine growers. This has led to significantly higher levels of resistance of vines when exposed to environmental extremes. BluVite is an example of the kinds of innovative products that will safeguard the industry against the worsening effects of climate change.

 

Automating and improving the fermentation process

Another award winner is GOfermentor, which is a great example of a newcomer to the wine industry bringing a new perspective on how things are done. Biotech engineer Vijay Singh completely changed the way pharmaceutical fermentations are processed. He did this by introducing a sterile bag that is used just once to replace stainless steel.

This concept and process has now been introduced by Singh to the wine industry. Grapes are crushed into a GOfermentor single use bag that holds one tonne. It’s then programmed to automatically process the fermentation. The automated process reduces the need for manual labour and improves the fermentation process. This results in reduced sulphides. In addition, the single use bag protects the wine from being exposed to outside pollutants, such as oxygen, bacteria and smoke.

When the fermentation process is finished, the GOfermentor presses the grapes, which leaves the pomace in the biodegradable single use bag. This means easy, environmentally sound disposal, which reduces water usage by 90% too. This kind of innovation is absolutely the future of the industry, with low cost usage and investment and many advantages.